The WNBA and NBA are making their voices louder in support of basketball star player and Houston native Brittney Griner, who has been imprisoned in Russia since February with no clear timetable for her release.
This week NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is working in conjunction with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert in hopes of bringing home the Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist.
“We’ve been in touch with the White House, the State Department, hostage negotiators, every level of government and also through the private sector as well,” Silver said on ESPN during Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery show in Chicago. “Our No. 1 priority is her health and safety and making sure that she gets out of Russia.”
Russia, which has invaded Ukraine and as a result is at odds with the United States, has been holding Griner since February when Russia said she attempted to board a flight home in Moscow with vape cartridges that allegedly contained cannabis oil.
Last week, Griner’s pre-trial detention was extended until at least June.
Contact between Griner and the U.S. government and her family has been limited, but officials say they are now pushing hard to have regular contact with the basketball star, who has played professionally in Russia during the WNBA offseason. So far Russia has limited U.S. Embassy officials from visiting with Griner regularly.
The State Department and President Biden have spoken out and said Griner is being wrongfully detained by Russia. Democratic House Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Colin Allred (Texas), and Greg Stanton introduced a resolution calling for the immediate release of Griner on Thursday.
Jackson Lee has also been outspoken about Griner’s detainment, calling the seven-time WNBA All-Star a political pawn in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s game.
“She is a victim of Putin’s desperation to rule the world, and unfortunately, her freedom is made more difficult by inconsistent Russian responses to our embassy personnel and a bad legal system in Russia,” Jackson Lee said.